CAMBRIDGE CITY, Ind.
Union County took care of business. Now all the Patriots can do is wait.
The Class 2A No. 11-ranked Patriots wasted little time in Tuesday night’s Tri-Eastern Conference boys basketball battle at Cambridge City.
Union County shook off an early four-point deficit then rolled to a 78-53 victory over Lincoln.
The Patriots complete the TEC portion of their schedule with a 6-1 mark and wait on the results of a key TEC game Friday to find out whether they will get a share of their second TEC title in three years.
Winchester, 5-1 in TEC play, plays host Friday to Northeastern, which is 5-0, and if the Falcons win, the Patriots and Falcons will share the TEC title and Northeastern will have to win its regular-season finale Feb. 27 at home opposite Union City to force a three-way tie.
“It was very important, because we needed to post 6-1 in the conference,” Patriots coach Mark Detweiler said. “We’re 6-1 in conference, we’re done with conference play and we’ll see if that can be enough to give us a share. But it was important mentally for us, because we gave one away Saturday from the free-throw line and missed a lot of free throws against a very good team.”
Union County had won 13 straight games entering last week before Northeastern snapped the Patriots’ streak to take control in the TEC. UC lost a second straight game Saturday in triple overtime at Eastern Hancock. All three teams are in Sectional 41, which was won by the Patriots the past two years and remains their main goal.
“We needed to come back,” Union County’s Brandon Himes said. “Losing two games in a row was just bad on the team, because you’re feeling down and you just got to come back with more energy. That’s what it is.”
Lincoln won the opening tip Tuesday and hit three of its first four shots, while Union County missed its first five, and the Golden Eagles led 5-1.
Things quickly changed for hot-shooting Union County, however.
Himes hit a 3-pointer to get UC within 5-4, and after Ben Singer made it 8-4 Lincoln with one of his own, Bryce Fields got the Patriots within 8-7 and Kory Finch gave UC the lead 9-8.
The Patriots used a 7-0 run to take an 11-8 lead and led 18-12 after the opening period.
Finch finished with a double-double of 19 points and 12 assists, unofficially, and Himes added 18 points for the Patriots.
“I just thought we needed to push the ball after that two-game loss and really get this win and dig in,” Finch said.
” … We needed to get back into track, get our wins up and just focus on what’s ahead of us. The two losses gave us our motivation for this game.”
Hunter Miller added 15 points, Dillon Miller had 10 off the bench, Braden Norris scored nine, Fields five and Shane Mosley two.
Finch, Himes and Hunter Miller each had seven rebounds, while Norris added six, and Finch had four steals, while Himes and Fields each had three.
“I just think they’re so deep,” Lincoln coach Rodney Klein said. “From 1-9, they can play some kids and they got good bodies inside. When Hunter Miller is shooting the ball outside, he’s a hard guard, because you worry about him in the post and then he goes out and hits 3s. … Finch is so quick off the dribble, and they’re just a good basketball team.
“I thought we did some good things tonight, early especially, to hurt them, but over time their athleticism wore on us a little bit and that’s just part of the game. I really think he’s got a great team. Our sectional’s so loaded with talent.”
Singer had game-high honors with 27 points for the Golden Eagles. Evan Underwood added nine, and Trevor Gabbard, Ian Bloom and Jacob Kissick each had five.
Singer also led Lincoln with five rebounds, and Bloom had three steals.
The Patriots (14-3, 6-1) return to action today as they travel to Class 4A East Central in a non-conference bout.
The Golden Eagles (6-9, 1-5) travel today to Modoc to face Union.
“I thought our kids battled tonight, and I told our kids before the game, I said I will not be upset with you if I could say at the end of the game that we played as hard as we could play,” Klein said. “I thought we did a lot of good things tonight. It just wasn’t good enough to beat a team like that.”